Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Adding Diacritical Marks (Accents and Other Marks) to a Document

Accents are added to computerized documents via the ALT code combination. The ALT code is usually implemented with the numeric keypad found on standard desktop keyboards. To utilize the numeric keypad to create ALT code combinations, the Num Lock key must be activated. You can tell the Num Lock key is activated by the appearance of a light somewhere on the keyboard; if you can't find it, then check your computer manual for an indication that the Num Lock key has been set.

Most laptops have nuances which you'll have to research before you can use their version of the numeric keypad, due to the portable nature of the laptop.

To perform an ALT code operation, hold down your keyboard's ALT key and type in a certain numeric code. Then, release the ALT key. In Spanish document creation, forming accented letters can be done by using the following codes:

Lower Case Letters

ALT 0225
ALT 0233
ALT 0237
ALT 0243
ALT 0250
ALT 0241
ALT 0246

Upper Case Letters

ALT 0193
ALT 0201
ALT 0205
ALT 0211
ALT 0218
ALT 0209
ALT 0214

Other Useful Marks

ALT 0161
ALT 0191
ALT 0171
ALT 0187
ALT 0139
ALT 0155

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Personal "A"

Usually in Spanish, a noun that acts as a direct object is joined directly to the modifying verb; however, this is only when the direct object is a thing. When the direct object is a person, or people, then we put an a between the verb and the noun. This is known as the personal a.

There is no English equivalent to this grammar oddity. Notice the following examples with a personal a underlined:

No veo a Juan. I don't see Juan.

Tengo que llevar a mi hermano a la escuela. I have to take my brother to the school.

Some verbs that you might find a person acting as a direct object are esperar (to wait for, to expect), parecerse (to look like), and buscar (to look for), as in the following sentences:

Espero a David en la sala de espera. I'm waiting for David in the waiting room.

Jaime se parece a George W. Bush. Jaime looks like George W. Bush.

Nosotros buscamos a la muchacha que vende faldas. We're looking for the gal that sells skirts.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Present Subjunctive of Haber

The present subjunctive of haber is basically used in the same grammatical context as the indicative version, but is substituted for it when a dependent clause is present.

Here's the conjugation for haber in the present subjunctive:

to be(aux.)
yo haya
nosotros hayamos
tú hayas
vosotros hayáis
él, ella, Ud. haya
ellos, ellas, Uds. hayan

Use these conjugations the same time you would use the present tense of haber. Remember that this is an AUXILIARY verb, so you MUST include a participle with the verb. Here are some examples to illustrate this:

Yo espero que el correo haya llegado. I hope that the mail has arrived.

Ojalá que los estudiantes de español hayan hecho su tarea. Hopefully the Spanish students have done their homework.

You'll notice that each of the above uses of haber are in the subjunctive since they are subordinate clauses. You should be used to the subjunctive by now, and this is merely a new way of using it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Idioms with Por

An idiom is a phrase or sentence fragment of a language that is not readily translatable word-for-word; what that means is, it shouldn't be taken literally. An example of an English idiom is "hit the lights"; this idiom means to either turn on or turn off the lights, not literally "hit" them.

Included as part of several idioms is the preposition por. Below is a table of some very commonly used idioms including the aforementioned preposition:

por aquí/acá/allí/allá
over here/here/there/there
por ahora
for now
por casualidad
by chance, out of chance
por cierto
por lo común
por lo demás
por lo tanto
por mi parte
as far as I'm concerned
por dentro y fuera
inside and out
por desgracia
por ejemplo
for example
por eso
because of that, that's why
por favor
por fin
por lo general
in general
por lo menos
at least
por primera vez
for the first time
por si acaso
just in case
por supuesto
of course
por último
por un lado
on the one hand

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Por v. Para

Both of the Spanish words por and para mean "for", usually; however, they are not interchangeable. They are only utilizable in certain occurrences. Here is a synapsis of when to use por or para:

Use para when:

Notating a destination, goal, deadline, or recipient

Tomé el tren para San Francisco. I took the train for/to San Francisco.

Estoy leyendo el libro para aprenderlo. I am reading the book (in order)to learn it.

Tengo que estar en la oficina para las 2. I have to be in the office by 2.

Esta camisa es para Rebecca. This shirt is for Rebecca.

Use por when:

1)Symbolizing the English equivalent of "through", "over", "around", or "by"

Sal por esa puerta. Leave through that door.

Estuve por allá ayer. I was around there yesterday.

El libro famoso es escrito por Miguel de Cervantes. The famous book is written by Miguel de Cervantes.

2)Denoting the cost of an item

Compré esta computadora por $850. I bought this computer for $850.

If you want to thank somebody for something, then we would use por after gracias, followed by an infinitive:

Gracias por la computadora nueva. Thanks for the new computer.

Gracias por el libro. Thanks for the book.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Commands in the Nosotros Form (With Pronouns)

Now, we learn how to formulate a command in the nosotros form using pronouns. These can either be reflexive, direct object, or indirect object pronouns. Let's look at the verb levantarse, which you may or may not know means, in its reflexive sense, "to get up(out of bed)". This infinitive verb contains a reflexive pronoun.

To make this a command, we formulate the verb in the normal sense by applying the opposite vowel to levantar, which for -ar verbs, is e. Therefore, the nosotros command for this verb is levantemos.

Now, an interesting thing occurs here. To make this a straight nosotros command using the reflexive pronoun, we need to do 2 things: 1)we need to add an accent to the second-to-last syllable (penultimate) on the command root, and 2)we have to remove the -s from the original command word. So, we're left with

Levantémonos. Let's get up(out of bed).

Notice above that the diacritical mark(accent) is placed on the opposite vowel, which is always the case when a pronoun is affixed to the command. For your visual delight, it is underlined.

For -er/-ir verbs that are regular, the opposite vowel is a. For example, the reflexive infinitve verb divertirse (to enjoy oneself), correctly implemented as a command, follows:

¡Divertámonos! Let's enjoy ourselves!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Commands in the Nosotros Form (Without Pronouns)

In the nosotros form, commands take on the understanding of "Let's..." To formulate the nosotros command, you will use the opposite vowel suffix. If you are unsure what the opposite vowel suffix is, then you should probably review that concept before proceeding with this one.

For the simple, regular -ar verbs, the opposite vowel is "e". We will need to change the nosotros suffix to -emos. Note the following examples, with the opposite vowel underlined and implemented:

Hablemos. Let's talk.

Llamemos a mamá. Let's call Mom.

Manejemos al centro. Let's drive downtown.

For -er/-ir verbs, the opposite vowel suffix is going to be just the opposite, -amos. Note these following examples with the opposite vowel "a" underlined as well:

Entendamos exactamente lo que dice la profesora. Let's understand exactly what the professor is saying.

How, then, do we negate, or make negative, a nosotros command? Easy. We put no in front of the command! Check out the following:

No manejemos al centro. Let's not drive downtown.

No entendamos la tarea. Let's not understand the homework.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Las Abreviaturas - Abbreviations

You know in English there are several abbreviations that we know and use, and usually, we take them for granted. Likewise, Spanish-speakers have their own sets of abbreviations of which they take for granted, and to you learning the Spanish language, you will come across them and not know exactly what they mean. Below I've compiled a list of commonly used abbreviations to help you out some.

Abbreviations of People

Spanish Word
Spanish Abbreviation
Ud., Uds.
D., Dña.
Señor, Señora, Señorita
Sr., Sra., Srta.
Doctor, doctora
Dr., Dra.
Señor, Señora, Señorita
Sr., Sra., Srta.

Units of Measurement (There are no periods!)

Spanish Word
Spanish Abbreviation


Spanish Word
Spanish Abbreviation
derecha (right)
izquierda (left)
izq., izqda.
código postal

Business/Miscellaneous Abbreviations

Spanish Word
Spanish Abbreviation
Sociedad Anónima (Inc.)
Cuenta corriente (checking account)
Cuenta de ahorros (savings account)
Por ejemplo
p. ej.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Review of Ser and Estar

Both ser and estar mean "to be", or "is", to English speakers. However, they are used in different situations. The verb ser is used to tell time, the date, discuss possession, origin, non-changing descriptions, and career.

to be, "is"
yo soy
nosotros somos
vosotros sois
él, ella, Ud. es
ellos, ellas, Uds. son

On the other hand, the verb estar is used to discuss temporary conditions or location.

to be, "is"
yo estoy
nosotros estamos
vosotros estáis
él, ella, Ud. está
ellos, ellas, Uds. están

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Relative Pronoun Quien

When we use the relative pronoun que, we can replace it with the relative pronoun a quien when the noun to which we're referring is a person. It is important to know that quien is NOT the interrogative word quién.

When the pronoun is a plural one, we replace a quien with a quienes. Notice that we use the prepositional "a", which is a mainstay grammatical part when a direct object is a person.

El hombre a quien conozco ya no existe.

The man (who, that) I know doesn't exist anymore.

Necesito encontrar a los profesores a quienes hablan francés.

I need to find the professors (who, that) speak French.

We can also use quien and quienes to serve straight up as the subject of the sentence. In this case it usually takes on the meaning of "The ones that" or "Whoever...".

Quienes hablan francés, por favor levántense.

Whoever speaks French, please stand up.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Relative Pronoun Que

Relative pronouns, as you may or may not know, are used to combine two independent clauses into a single, coherent sentence. By far, the most common relative pronoun in the Spanish language is que. It is important to recall that this is NOT the interrogative word qué!

This pronoun can take on the meaning of that, who, which, and whom. Usually when que is used, it acts as the bridge between the subject of a sentence and the description of that subject.

el hombre que conduce el coche

the man that drives the car

el libro que está encima del pupitre

the book that is on top of the desk

la escuela que asisto

the school that I attend

An interesting aspect of relative pronouns is that in English the majority of them can be omitted. If we take the sentence fragment la escuela que asisto, we can completely get rid of the relative pronoun in English, and simply say "the school I attend", instead of saying "the school that I attend". In Spanish, lamentably, the relative pronoun must always be present to combine both parts of the clause.

When used in conjunction with nadie(nobody) or alguien(somebody), the pronoun "que" can take on the meaning of "who":

¿No hay nadie que puede explicar la lectura?

Is there nobody who can explain the reading?

El dependiente en la tienda es alguien que ayuda a los clientes.

The clerk in the store is someone who helps the customers.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Using the Future Tense to Express Probability and Uncertainty

An interesting use of the future tense is when Spanish-speakers conjugate a verb in this manner to express uncertainty, wonder, conjecture, or probability.

Let's explore the following examples. Suppose we are wondering if our buddy Javan is coming to a party. We can express that in a myriad ways, but a great way to do that is by employing the future tense:

Javan vendrá a la fiesta a las nueve.

Javan might be coming to the party at 9.

Or, it might be interpreted as follows:

Javan probably is coming to the party at 9.

If expressed as a question, the sentence is interpreted as follows:

¿Vendrá Javan a la fiesta?

I wonder if Javan is coming to the party? OR Maybe Javan is coming to the party?

It can be used to express uncertainty as to the time:

Serán las once.

It might be 11 o'clock.

The meaning and interpretation of the future tense used in this manner is usually understood through context, since the same format can be used to actually express an event that will happen in the future. For example:

Mis amigos estarán en casa.

My friends might be at home.

can ALSO mean (in the classical future tense):

My friends will be at home.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Proverbs and Expressions, Part 1

Here are some fun expressions that you can try out in Spanish! If a native speakers hears you say these, you will most definitely have scored brownie points with them. Included is the Spanish proverb as well as the word-for word translation so you can see how the expression compares and contrasts to the English equivalent. Instead of the quotation marks (" ") around the expression, Spanish speakers use brackets (<< >>). Try to use these on a semi-regular basis so they can become fluent in your conversations when they are needed.

Spanish Expression
English Equivalent
Literal Translation
A caballo regalado, no se le mira el colmillo.
Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.
On a gifted horse, the incisor tooth isn't looked at.
A lo hecho, pecho.
Don't cry over spilled milk.
To what's done, chest.
Al que madruga, Dios le ayuda.
The early bird catches the worm.
To he or she that rises early, God helps them.
Antes que te cases, mira lo que haces.
Look before you leap.
Before you get married, look at what you're doing.
de tal palo, tal astilla
a chip off the old block
from such a stick, such a splinter
Del dicho al hecho hay gran techo.
There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip.
From what's said to what's done there is a huge distance.
Más vale pájaro en mano que ciento volando.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
In the hand a bird is worth more than a hundred flying.
Poderoso caballero es don Dinero.
Money talks.
A powerful gentleman is Mr. Money.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Using the Subjunctive with Emotional Expressions

One of the hardest things for English-speakers who are learning Spanish to grasp is the requirement of the subjunctive in conjunction with so many expressions. One such expression is when the speaker shows a biased emotional response to an otherwise dependent clause. Some phrases that employ bias, and use the subjunctive, are:

es una lástima que
it's a shame that
es bueno que
it's good that
es malo que
it's bad that
es un problema que
it's a problem that
alegrarse que
to be happy that
ser triste que
to be sad that

Here are some examples using biased clauses:

Es una lástima que Gia se case con él.

It's a shame that Gia is getting married to him.

Es bueno que los muchachos estén en escuela ahora.

It's good that the kids are in school right now.

Es malo que la computadora no funcione.

It's not good that the computer is not working.

Es un problema que no se pueda matricular en la Universidad esta semestre.

It's a problem that you can't enroll in the University this semester.

Me alegro que tú saques buenas notas.

I'm happy that you're getting good grades.

Ella es triste que su marido se marche.

She is sad that her husband is leaving.

It's important to note that this list is not all-inclusive, and that even some of these expressions can be negated (for example, no me alegro que...). What IS important to pay attention to is the logic behind the need to use the subjunctive mood following these clauses: each one of these biased clauses FORCE a dependent clause, or rather, the dependent clause(subjunctive) cannot exist without these biased expressions being put forth.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Forming Adverbs

The vast majority of adverbs in Spanish end in -mente, and correspond to the English suffix -ly. Spanish adverbs are relatively easy to form, and act similarly to their English counterparts.

An adverb or adverbial phrase is any member of a class of words that function as modifiers of verbs or clauses, as well as adjectives. Adverbs typically express some relation of place, time, manner, circumstance, etc.

To form them, we take their associative adjective and feminize it. This is only possible when the adjective being manipulated can either exist in a masculine or feminine form, which is usually a suffix of -o or -a, respectively. The table below shows the masculine singular adjective. You'll notice that prior to -mente being added, the adjective becomes feminine (by replacing the -o with an -a):

This adjective:
Forms this Adverb
intensamente (intensely)

Now, when the adjective ends with an ambiguous suffix, then we simply just add -mente to the adjective:

This adjective:
Forms this Adverb
fácilmente (slowly)

You'll notice in some of the above examples that if there is an accent found on the adjective form, then that accent is carried on to the formation of the adverb, as in the adjective rápido---->rápidamente.

The following adjective--->adverb transformations are irregular and need to be memorized. You'll notice that some of them are the same as their adjective counterparts:

This adjective:
Forms this Adverb

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Subjunctive with No Dependent Clause

The subjunctive can also exist while the dependent clause is not fully realized. In these instances, the subject of the indicative clause stays the same throughout the sentence. Take for example the following sentence:

El maestro quiere que los estudiantes anoten unos apuntes. The teacher wants the students to write down some notes.

Notice that the subject starts with "el maestro" but then "el estudiante" takes over as the focus of the sentence. In this case, we need to follow the classic structure of independent (indicative clause) + que + dependent (subjunctive clause). However, a subjunctive expression can also exist when the subject stays the same. In these instances, we don't combine two clauses by "que", but rather, we affix the infinitive to the indicative clause. Notice the following examples, where the "trigger" clause is underlined:

Madrigal insiste en venir a la fiesta. Madrigal insists on coming to the party.

necesitas ir al baño. You need to go to the bathroom.

Nosotros recomendamos escribir un ensayo. We recommend writing an essay.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Using Ser de

As we have seen before, the verb ser can be used in a myriad ways and is one of the very first verbs we need to master in the Spanish language. You can use the verb ser(to be) plus the preposition de to form several simple expressions that take on different meanings depending on the context of the sentence in which it is used.

Ser de is used in the following three instances:

1)to express origin, of a person or thing
Yo soy de California. I am from California.

2)to express possession
Esta computadora es de Dave. This is Dave's computer.

3)to express material or composition
Mi camisa es de algodón. My tee shirt is made of cotton.

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